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Five ways to translate video

There are five common ways to translate video. The method you choose will depend on the size of your budget; the objectives of the video; and the audience’s preferences. We look at the pros and cons of each.

1. Voice-over

What is it? The narrator (off-screen voice), is replaced with a voice-over translation. This is the most common way to translate video and is used in everything from documentaries, corporate videos and TV commercials.

Considerations: The quality of the translation of the voice-over script is extremely important. If the script has been translated too literally or has not been condensed to fit the time constraints the performance will suffer. Casting a voice artist that matches the style of the original performance requires the help of a multi-lingual voice-over agency. Voice-over is often used in conjunction with subtitles, UN style voice-over, and/or translating the on-screen text and graphics.

Cost? The cost of voice-over can vary wildly depending on the voice talent selected and whether the video is being used to advertise a product or service (in which case a usage fee may apply). Check out the Matinée FAQ pages for more information about calculating voice-over costs.

2. Lip-sync dubbing

What is it? The actors’ voices are replaced (dubbed) with foreign actors. Commonly used in video games, animations, film.

Considerations: Lip-Sync dubbing requires extensive preparatory work to adapt the translated scripts, not only to fit within the original audio’s time constraints, but also to ensure the translated audio mimics the actors’ lip movements as closely as possible.

Producing lip-sync recordings is a very time consuming process and the final result can often be questionable – you never get a perfect lip-sync. Modern cinema goers generally prefer to hear the original audio with subtitles/captions, but lip-sync dubbing is often the preferred option in countries with high levels of illiteracy.

Cost? Lip-sync dubbing is generally the most expensive method of translating video. Check out the Matinée FAQ pages for more information about calculating voice-over dubbing costs.

3. UN Style Voice-over

What is it? The original voice(s) can still be heard in the background and the translated voice-over acts as an interpreter. Commonly used in films with a serious subject matter with the subject talking directly to camera (talking head).

Considerations: A UN Style voice-over is a perfect fit for films with a serious subject matter, which is why it’s often used in documentaries and in news broadcast. The translation summarises what is being said, without altering the meaning. As with voice-over translation, it’s important that the scripts have been translated referencing the time constraints in the original audio.

Cost? The cost will depend on the number of voices required. A UN style voice-over is often a similar cost to a standard voice-over, but usage fees are rarely paid since the voice-over is acting as interpreter, and their performance isn’t critical to the video. Check out the Matinée FAQ pages for more information about calculating voice-over costs.

4. Subtitles/closed captions

What is it? A written rendering of the dialogue typically placed in the bottom-centre of the screen. Commonly used in broadcast, films, news and corporate video.

Considerations: Subtitles / Closed Captions are the most cost-effective way of translating video. It’s often a preferred alternative to lip-sync dubbing, or a UN style voice-over when actors or presenters are speaking to the camera. However subtitles require a real commitment from the viewer, and aren’t the best option for a passive audience. This means they are rarely used in TV Commercials, or promos.

Cost? Subtitling is generally the most cost-effective way to translate video. Check out the Matinée FAQ pages for more information about calculating voice-over costs.

5. On-screen Text / Captions

What is it? A translation of the on-screen text and graphics used throughout the video. An important consideration for any video relying on text to convey messages to the viewer.

Considerations: Animated on-screen text, title slates and captions are commonly used in video to communicate a variety of messages to the viewer. Many companies overlook the translation of on-screen text but it’s very important; without it your audience is not getting a complete translation.

It’s even more important when animated on-screen text is used as the primary tool to punctuate the message. Don’t ever consider subtitling a video which uses lots of on-screen text as it will make it very difficult for the viewer to read both and understand the message.

The video translation agency will need the video source files (e.g. Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premier or Final Cut Pro) to professionally translate the on-screen text. And without the source files it will take extra time, cost more and most importantly not look as good.

Cost? The cost to translate on-screen text depends on many factors. We always have an engineer review the source files before confirming the time and cost required.

Read more about translating video here.

If you’d like to discuss how to translate your video project, get in touch with us today.

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